Gloucester Police are expected to soon be dealing with the fallout of some of the 64,000 tainted drug samples from the state’s drug lab in Jamaica Plain, but officials on all sides of the issue are still uncertain how local drug cases and arrests are involved.
Former chemist Annie Dookhan’s allegedly mishandled those drug samples during her time at the state’s now closed Hinton State Laboratory in Boston. Her handling of them has thrown thousands of criminal cases across the state in jeopardy, according to state officials.
A total of 8,451 of those samples came from Essex County, said Carrie Kimball-Monahan, speaking for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett. Yet, zeroing in on how many of those samples may have come from charges and suspects out of Gloucester, where police have stepped up the drug fight in recent months, has been difficult to pin down.
Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello said Tuesday he hasn’t yet been told how many of Gloucester’s cases may be tied to the drug samples that Dookhan allegedly processed. He declined further comment, and said the District Attorney’s office was handling all comment on the incident.
“I’m aware of it,” Campanello said, “but I haven’t personally researched to see if any of my cases are effected by it yet.”
While Blodgett’s office doesn’t know how many cases from Gloucester had tainted evidence; however, Monahan said she’s sure there will be some.
Monahan said that Massachusetts State Police provided Blodgett’s office with a list offenders whose samples Dookhan had either tested or signed off on. Matching those samples to cases, she said, is what the Essex DA’s office is working on now.
The cases stem from the period, 2003 to 2011, the time in which Dookhan worked at the lab and the time frame for when it was under the oversight of the state’s Department of Public Health. She resigned in 2011 during an investigation by the department.
When the State Police assumed control of the lab this year, they launched an audit that found Dookhan’s misconduct was more rampant than previously thought. The investigation has thus far led to the lab’s shutdown, Dookhan’s arrest, and the resignation of the state’s Commissioner of Public Health, John Auerbach.
The Essex County court starts hearing cases tied to the drug lab disaster today in Salem Superior Court. The defendant is Ali McMillan, a Lynn resident arrested on charges of cocaine possession and firearms charges. And his attorney, Monahan said, brought the matter forward in the wake of the lab incident.
After the court hears the Superior Court level cases, Monahan said it will hear the district court level cases, which would include cases from Gloucester District Court. Cases will come as defense attorneys raise them, Monahan said.
For the moment, she said, the District Attorney’s office is still reviewing its files to see which cases had samples that Dookhan tested while employed at the drug lab. Blodgett’s office is focusing on cases that landed people in jail first.
“As of this moment, I can’t tell you that X, Y, Z cases are out of Gloucester District Court, but I do anticipate at some point, I’ll be able to do that,” Monahan said.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.